Journey of the SV. Nikolai

  • Fri Jun 19th, 2015 10:11pm
  • News

Dedication ceremony planned for the SV Nikolai Monument.

A dedication ceremony for a monument recognizing the ship wreck of the Sv. Nikolai will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 20. The structure is at 5333 Upper Hoh Road.

One of the most beautiful spots in the West End and maybe even in the world is Rialto Beach. Located 12 miles from Forks, the rugged shoreline with its amazing beauty on occasion even plays host to wedding parties, producing a unique experience and amazing photos, but for one newlywed Russian couple an unscheduled stopover at this breathtaking location would prove to be anything but a honeymoon.

Nikolai Bulygin was the captain of the Sv. Nikolai, a schooner about 45 feet long. Bulygin was sent in 1808 to explore the coast of Washington for possible new settlements. Eighteen year old Anna Petrovna had just married Nikolai and accompanied him on the trip.

The voyage had a mandate from Alexander Baranov, the head of the Sitka base, to gather information in advance of Russian colonization.

Anna, along with her husband, Russian fur hunters known as promyshlennik, an Englishman, Aleut men and women, and a part-Russian teenager, went ashore on Nov. 1, 1808. This was after almost a week of being adrift and tossed around by gale force winds and large swells in the turbulent Pacific, drifting from Destruction Island southwest of the Hoh River north about 20 miles to the beach near LaPush.

After escaping the sinking vessel and reaching the shore, the party used sails draped over wooden yards from the shipwreck as tents. They lit a fire and prepared to head south dozens of miles to Grays Harbor where they hoped a companion Russian ship, the Kad’iak, would pick them up.

Almost immediately there were problems with the Quileute, Hoh and Makah, who were accustomed to fighting each other and strangers. Anna was captured and her husband went a bit insane, refusing to give up his search for her, no matter how many of his crew died or were captured. At one point Anna was brought back for ransom, but the price demanded was the guns of the Russians. Without them, they would have no way of hunting food or protecting themselves, so, although Bulygin begged his men, they refused and Anna was taken away.

In the spring, the castaways finally were led to Anna; the Russians had managed to take some women themselves as hostages and hoped that Anna could now go free. To their shock they heard Anna say that she was satisfied with her condition and did not want to rejoin the Russians and she advised them to surrender themselves. Bulygin collapsed at the news. Later he and part of the remaining crew surrendered to the Indians and they eventually found themselves traded as slaves. As slaves, Bulygin and Anna were together at times. Anna Petrovna died in August 1809. A heartbroken Bulygin died of advanced consumption the following February.

The survivors were rescued by American fur traders in May 1810.

It was during their miserable stay, around Dec. 10, 1808, when snow started to fall, that the party decided to build a structure on the upper Hoh. To commemorate their story, the Association of Washington Generals sought donated land near the Hoh Rain Forest believed to be at or near the original location where the Russian survivors once took refuge. Bill Sperry, of Forks, coordinated the memorial project. The structure itself is completed and a dedication ceremony is now planned.

Former Forks Forum editor Chris Cook has compiled much information on the story of the SV. Nikolai. It is Cook’s hope that somewhere in some West End resident’s attic lay some of the pieces of the Nikolai.

The book “Women to Reckon With” written by Gary Peterson and Glynda Peterson Schaad also tells the story of Anna, as well as many other memorable woman of the area.

Until death did they part, the tragic story of Anna and Nikolai.

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